Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Thomas Bartholin, a man for all seasons (or at least a few days' worth of blog posts

Thomas Bartholin has been much on my mind lately; in fact, I've been silently referring to him as "Thomas" (since he doesn't seem like a "Tom"--or a "Barty" for that matter). Sure, he was a Danish polymath who could discourse on medicine, mathematics, religion, philosophy, and the classics, but what did he do that was interesting? I have two words for you: De unicornu.

During a period of time before there were such harsh delineations between allopathy and homeopathy, Thomas wrote learned treatises on both shark teeth and the unicorn. On the unicorn is a rather scarce title, but sounds like it would be well worth the effort to find a copy to read (good thing I've been keeping up with my Latin). His thesis might be just the backing that modern purveyors of unicorn products are looking for to secure FDA approval.

Too prolific for for the monograph market alone, he also established the first Danish scientific journal, Acta medica et philosophica hafniensa (because unicorns are a big enough topic for book treatment, but what about gryphons?)

And, armed with this overwhelming profusion of books and journals of his own making, Thomas finally achieved the ultimate goal: he became rector and librarian of the University of Copenhagen in 1671. Coming in tomorrow's post: the sad history of Thomas' personal library...

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